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EghtesadOnline: The Majlis Research Center, the research arm of the parliament, says how average amount of water used to produce metals, namely gold and copper, in Iran is five times above international norms.

According to IRNA and based on the MRC report, worldwide less than 400 cubic meters of water is used to make one kilogram of gold, whereas in Iran it is 2,000 cubic meters! 

The report also says Iranian companies use close to 200 cubic meters of water to produce one ton of copper that is at least five times more than in other copper producing companies.

When it comes to cement and sand, the figure is 900 cubic meters per ton.

More than 128 cubic meters of water is required to produce one ton of steel, and based on the country's target to annually produce 45 million tons of steel by 2021, close to 6 billion cubic meters of water will be needed, which is more than 7% of the total used for farming.

The worsening water crisis in Iran has put mounting pressure on domestic steel companies to innovate and improve productivity. Most steel plants are facing strong opposition from conservationists, economic experts and environmentalists as water resources dry up and nationwide demand rises. 

The drying of Zayanderoud River in the central city of Esfahan, for instance, has caused serious concerns regarding the activity of Esfahan Steel Company—Iran's third largest steel producer— and Iran's largest steelmaker Mobarakeh Steel Company, which together use  7% of the water from rivers.

Annual water consumption in Iran is 100 billion cubic meters, of which 90% is used in the agro sector, whereas in other countries namely Turkey the figure is 70%.

Iran's mining sector and other industries account for 8% of the total annual water consumption and the balance (2%) is for home use.



Reclaimed Wastewater

According to the report, to preserve this precious resource, the Energy Ministry is encouraging the use of reclaimed wastewater by the industrial and farming sectors. Huge investments have gone into water treatment plants and desalination units. 

The government hopes that by making treated wastewater safer for industries and agriculture will have a positive effect in preserving drinking water.

As a result of years of drought, Iran has been forced to rely more on its depleting underground water reserves without allowing enough time for natural replenishment. Overuse has drained the reserves and permanently damaged underground tables rendering many sources completely dry or unusable.

The state news agency recalled that barely 10% of water used in Mouteh Gold Complex (owned by Iran Minerals Production and Supply Company) in Esfahan Province, is recycled. The complex started extracting gold 22 years ago and produces the precious metal with 99% purity.

Without proper environmental surveys and stringent rules mining will undoubtedly remain the biggest threat to the fragile ecosystem.

Calling for effective action before the wells run dry, the report warned that excessive copper mining in the central plateau is a public health hazard, affecting not only the region but the entire country. 

Waste produced while separating copper from other low-grade ore can leach into soils, underground water, and surface water, with disastrous effects. If this was not enough, illegal water wells have become a monumental problem rendering underground water aquifers dry.

The report concludes that low water tariffs mean water productivity has been typically poor in agriculture and industries. 

Worldwide, the average amount of dry agricultural products from each cubic meter of water is 2.1 kilogram, whereas in Iran the same amount of water hardly produces 0.5 kilogram.

According to the Geological Survey & Mineral Exploration Organization of Iran, 37 million Iranians live in water-stressed regions. Iran is located in an arid and semi-arid region. With less than 230 millimeters of rainfall per year, it is among countries with low precipitation.


Copper Gold Iran majlis mining Water consumption